6 Reasons Why Reading Makes Us Better Human Beings
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” — George R.R. Martin
Ever since I could read, I did. I wasn’t particularly good in sports, nor was I gifted with any real musical talent. Reading, however, has been my biggest hobby since I was a child.
My mom definitely infected me with the reading bug. She’s always reading and recommending books to me.
When I was young, I snuggled up next to the fireplace or even the radiator and got carried away to magical worlds and foreign lands. Into the minds of others. Rooting for my fictional friends.
A read about a book per week. I love it, but why do I love it? Why do people love reading in general? I have a couple of theories and ideas about that. Before you dive into them, think about why you love to read.
#1: You Never Stop Learning
“Read with the mindset of a carpenter looking at trees.” — Terry Pratchett
Think about it. You learn something about a subject you’re interested in. You question your previous beliefs. You analyze your own behavior. You learn about the conditions of your fellow human beings. You get to experience how it is to be someone else. You keep forming and molding your values.
Whether you pick up a classic novel, read an essay about climate change, or skim through an academic paper about human behavior, you will learn something you didn’t know before. How exciting is that? From the comfort of your chair, you become immersed in new worlds like Middle Earth and you learn about courage and friendship. Perhaps you’re trying to figure out how to best manage your finances. Or you’ve stumbled on a blog post about the future of technology and the possible impact of AI on our future society.
Find books and articles according to your interests. Do you know what’s even better? Read a book about a subject you’re kind of interested in but have never given a chance. Or, ask some of your closest friends what their favorite book is and find a way to read it. Join a book club. (I’ve been wanting to do this for years and still haven’t!). Just like in life, don’t stick with what’s comfortable. Go on new adventures and learn.
Stories, whether fictional or non-fictional help you to find answers to life’s questions. Stories act as compasses to our own lives while through our experiences we develop our own story.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” — Dr. Seuss
#2: You Learn to Think and Develop Your Values
“If you read, you can learn to think for yourself.” — Doris Lessing
By being in someone else’s mind, you learn to find similarities and differences between yourself and a character. You’ll find elements you love and hate. Some things may speak to you. Some won’t. And that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Reading will help you determine your values in life. Every book will add and deduct from the things you believe in. Sometimes you may read something so profound, you’ll become a different person. The garden of your values is replaced by new and exotic plants and flowers. That’s normal and good in my opinion. Imagine having the same old rusty values all your life, how can you grow?
“Think before you speak. Read before you think.” — Fran Lebowitz
#3: You Develop More Compassion
“Reading is an exercise in empathy, an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while.” — Malorie Blackman
Again, by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes or by reading about the conditions of people less fortunate than you, something will happen inside of you. Then you can decide if you want to act upon it. Perhaps you want to make a difference and help other people. You may find some kind of vocation by reading an article about lonely people in elderly homes who’d like to have someone to talk to.
When we read, we learn more about our fellow human beings at all levels of society. When a good novel makes us laugh or cry a magical light appears within us. We feel something for or together with someone else. Even if that someone is fictional.
I just finished reading ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’, I cried at the end. I feel like Morrie has been a coach to me too, just like he’s been to the author. I love this quote from the book: “The problem, Mitch, is that we don’t believe we are as much alike as we are. Whites and blacks, Catholics and Protestants, men and women. If we saw each other as more alike, we might be very eager to join in one big human family in this world, and to care about that family the way we care about our own.” Read that again if you please.
We all have different ways of life, that’s what makes people unique. However, we are all born and we will all die. In our true and humble essence, we are the same no matter what story other people try to make you believe. I know, if only it were that simple.
Show compassion. Especially — but not exclusively — to those closest to you. Be compassionate to strangers too. Show compassion to our nature and all the other beings that inhabit the Earth with us. When was the last time you visited a forest, or went on a long hike, explored a jungle or swam in the ocean?
“Read a lot of poetry; find poetry you really love. Don’t be afraid to imitate it. That’s how we learn most everything in the world — love and imitation. The second part is to seek primary sources, to go out into the world. Go to the art museum, yes, but go out into the forest, too. Pay attention to the world.” — Mary Oliver
#4: You Learn You’re Not Alone
“We read to know we’re not alone.” — C.S. Lewis
We all suffer. Some more than others, obviously. Reading can provide all of us who suffer from time to time with comfort. By reading we can escape our worries and pains. Reading helps us heal.
By reading, you find out you’re not alone in this world suffering the things you suffer from. In stories, you’ll find others who go through similar issues you have. Together, you can find solutions to your problems. Whether through self-help books or Medium articles. The stories of how other people like you overcame their pain or fears, may inspire you to tackle your own.
Whether you have mental health issues or are recovering from a severe injury, books can be like friends. Stories comfort us in the darkest of times and help us realize that there is hope.
“Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” — Albus Dumbledore (J.K. Rowling).
#5: You Keep on Discovering and Gaining New Insights
“If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting.”
— Ray Bradbury
When you’re reading up on some of your favorite subjects, you will find new insights. Perhaps you come across new interests by reading an article. Your favorite author may introduce a new subject you haven’t explored yet.
I just finished reading ‘Everything is F*cked’ by Mark Manson. Essentially it is a book about hope for my generation. It explores the issues of our time, while also taking into account what good of a time it is right now. He explores darker times from our past and often uses the wisdom of philosophers to argue his case. Because of this book, I’m interested to read the works of Schopenhauer, Kant, and Nietzsche. And just like that, I discovered new authors and subjects I’m interested in.
This way, I constantly come across new alleys and roads of subjects to explore. And I love it.
Being a writer myself, reading provides me with an additional benefit: I get new ideas and inspiration from reading. Articles may provide me with an idea for a short story. A well-written novel invites me to reconsider some of the decisions I made in the novel I’m working on myself. In addition, the thought processes of other writers invite my mind to be creative too.
“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” — Mortimer J. Adler
#6: You Never Stop Dreaming
“Reading is dreaming with open eyes.”― Anissa Trisdianty
Stories about other people “making it” may inspire you to chase that dream. For me, stories like The Alchemist have inspired me to chase my dream and just try and see what happens. I wrote a separate article about that which you can find here.
You can turn to non-fiction books about starting a side hustle or a startup in order to try to achieve that dream. You can turn to self-help books in order to pave the path to achieving that dream. And by reading more you’ll be inspired more which only fuels your dream.
Reading allows us to be inspired. Reading can give us hope. For a better future. To change jobs. To move to foreign lands and learn about new cultures. To boost your confidence and ask that girl out.
A novel may inspire you to start a new life. You’ll be transported to faraway locations through the written word.
Have you ever daydreamed about being able to jinx someone with your wand like Harry Potter? I bet many women daydreamed about Mr. Grey. Or you might just dream about becoming a detective when reading your first Sherlock Holmes novel.
“Some books leave us free and some books make us free.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
I hope you enjoyed this article and are excited to go back to your book. Or, if you haven’t read in a while, to pick up a book.